Matthew, P. The vegetable mould. Gardeners’ Chronicle and Agricultural Gazette (7 May 1864), pp.443-4
(Article dated March 25)
Matthew reprises his defence of his views on the importance of the vegetable mould.
In one section, his fascination with electricity also returns. He even muses on the nature of reality itself. The source for his views on the “unreal or glamour conception of matter” is unclear, but may be allied to Michael Faraday’s “Speculation touching electric conduction and the nature of matter” (1844) (see commentaries here and here). Matthew also references the corpuscular theory of light and George Berkeley’s ideas on subjective idealism:
“Here we are obliged to have recourse to the unreal or glamour conception of matter — that it is only electric points of attraction and repulsion varying infinitely in their repellent and attractive powers as acted upon physically and vitally — that what we regard the forms of things, corpuscular matter, is built up of electric groups of these points, the only real entities. We have no knowledge of what we term matter but by our senses: that of touch is only repellent; that of sight is not of the object itself but of what it repels. What conception can we have of an animal or lump of inanimate matter from receiving a rebound blow from certain of the pellets of light which had been thrown against it, those pallets which did not enter its skin or surface? This is the only information we receive from sight of the entity before us — actually no knowledge at all, but that it exists and repels certain bodies or impulses which strike against it, We weigh this entity and find that it attracts and is attracted by a large mass of the same (the earth), or is attracted or repelled by another entity as it is in an opposite or in the same condition of electricity with the other. This is a very vague knowledge, but it is all we know of matter, of the real or rather unreal character of the external world. What can we know of a ship from the spray of the wave which rebounds from its side? This is not Berkeley’s ideal theory, but the actual proven fact of all we know of matter”